A pair of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers just solved an old physics mystery stemming from the fact that spaghetti noodles almost always break into three or more pieces when broken in half. In particular, they proved that it is possible to break a piece of spaghetti into two pieces.
“For maybe a month, a month and a half, we would just break spaghetti after class, just cover the floor in broken pieces of spaghetti,” said Heisser, who is now a PhD student at Cornell University.
“I thought it would be cool to try and complete something that a famous physicist began,” he continued.
The team used mathematical modeling, a spaghetti-breaking contraption, and a high-tech camera to reveal that by bending and twisting spaghetti pieces, you can break them into two. And apparently, the twist is the most important part.
The reasoning lies in the old discovery that long, thin objects can be broken by applying even pressure at both ends, creating a “snap-back effect.”
“In our study, we go a bit further and show that actually you can control this fracture cascade and get two pieces if you twist it,” Patil said. “You can control the fracture process and then you get two pieces instead of many, many pieces.”
“Just understanding these complex fracture systems would be interesting going forward as well,” he added. “There’s still a lot to be discovered about fracture control and this is an example of fracture control.”
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.